SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Hat Creek Racing’s Averly Jane made every pole a winning one in Friday’s off-the-turf $120,000 Skidmore, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds contested over a fast main track at Saratoga Race Course.
Originally scheduled for 5 1/2-furlongs on the Mellon turf course, Averly Jane, who was listed as a main-track only entrant, bested the boys for the second time while maintaining a perfect record through three career starts.
One of three Wesley Ward-trained entrants, along with Golden Bell and Overbore, Averly Jane romped to an 8 3/4-length debut score on April 15 at Keeneland before topping her male counterparts in the five-furlong Kentucky Juvenile contested on a sloppy main track on April 28 at Churchill Downs.
With returning pilot Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, Averly Jane broke straight and sharp, opening up a three-length lead in the first few strides en route to setting a swift opening quarter-mile in 21.96 seconds.
The Midshipman bay maintained her lead through the turn with Golden Bell, also a main-track only entrant, tracking her speed in front of the stalking Pure Panic and Baytown Warrior as the half-mile ticked by in 45 flat.
Averly Jane cornered perfectly, opening up a five-length lead at the stretch call, and stayed on strong to the wire for a 7 1/4-length score in a final time of 1:03.79.
“When you’re riding for Wesley Ward, you know they have speed and just hopefully they last and today, she did,” Gaffalione said. “She broke on top and I was able to just put my hands down and let her relax and she did everything on her own. She’s a rocket. I had plenty left in the tank. We could have went a lot quicker even early on but we only used what we needed.”
Gaffalione said Averly Jane showed marked improvement from her Kentucky Juvenile score.
“It’s a night-and-day difference. Today, she was much more forward,” Gaffalione said. “She grew up and matured a little bit and I’m looking forward to down the road.”
Pure Panic, a smart maiden winner at Ellis Park for the Spa’s leading trainer Mike Maker, completed the exacta by three-quarters of a length over the Ward-trained Overbore, who was full of run down the lane for Joel Rosario.
Luis Saez, leading rider at the Saratoga meet, said he enjoyed a perfect trip.
“My horse was travelling pretty nicely,” Saez said. “He had a good break and was right there. He ran his race. The horse on the lead was pretty good.”
Ward captured last year’s Skidmore with Golden Pal, who exited that effort to win the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland. Earlier today, Golden Pal, winner of the Grade 3 Quick Call on Saratoga’s Opening Day, ran seventh in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at York.
Although Ward said the team, led by Hat Creek Racing’s Gatewood Bell, had considered the seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on September 5 for Averly Jane, the conditioner said the filly is likely to target the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades on October 8 at Keeneland.
“She’s a nice filly. We were kind of going back and forth with the Spinaway,” Ward said. “We’ll talk it over with Gatewood Bell. He picked her out and he does a great job picking horses out. We’ll get with him and make a plan from there. It’ll probably be the Alcibiades, which is in Gatewood’s hometown [Lexington, Kentucky]. That’s where she’s trained her whole life.
“We were thinking seriously about the Spinaway, but I was questioning my ability to train one off the layoff going seven-eighths,” he added, with a laugh. “She ran pretty big today.”
Rounding out the order of finish were Golden Bell, Catch the Smoke, Backnthewoods, Bonus Appreciation, Baytown Warrior and Barone Cesco. Kaufymaker was scratched.
A $35,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, Averly Jane is out of the Richter Scale mare Sh Sh Shakin’.
Bred in Kentucky by the University of Kentucky, Averly Jane banked $66,000 in victory while maintaining her perfect record. Sent to post as the 8-5 mutuel favorite, Averly Jane returned $5.20 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Saratoga with an 11-race card that features a trio of stakes, including the $120,000 Smart N Fancy for older fillies and mares sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon turf in Race 3 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid at 1 1/16-miles on turf for sophomore fillies in Race 9. The 141st running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/4 miles on the main track will take center stage in Race 10. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Race Course Press Release
Photo: Averly Jane, (Chelsea Durand / NYRA Photo)